Why does the idea of eating some things gross us out more than others?

Why do some things gross us out and others don’t? (Picture: Getty)

Ever wondered why the idea of eating certain things grosses us out yet others we’ll quite happily snaffle without a care in the world?

Apparently it’s all down to our innate ‘disgust response’, according to chartered psychologist and former Great British Bake Off finalist Kimberley Wilson.

Discussing the issue on the latest episode of Britain is a Nation Of…., a new podcast by Yahoo News UK, Wilson said: “There’s an automatic way in which certain things will just make us go ‘urgh'”.

Listen to the full episode of Britain is a nation of… below

What prompts this ‘disgust response’?

There are some obvious culprits, says Wilson. “Bodily fluids, things like small insects and small animals, so mice, rats, cockroaches tend to elicit this kind of disgust effect.

“Something that looks like it’s going to have some kind of infection, so open wounds and weeping sores and all of that sort of stuff brings up this disgust response and we think that that’s an evolutionary protective mechanism to prevent illness.

“So when you see something that’s disgusting you withdraw, you pull back, you’re less likely to touch it or engage with it and you’re less likely to become ill.”

Some things that gross us out are basically ‘learned responses’, says Kimberley Wilson (Picture: Getty)

The other side of the coin is learned responses, says Wilson.

“So in the UK it’s unusual for us to eat crickets or insects but huge parts of the world do and that’s just a cultural thing, and they don’t find it disgusting at all. It’s just a food source, so there’s a kind of learned aspect to it as well.”

On top of that, there’s also an element of being less concerned about your own germs than you are about other people’s, says Wilson.

How can we overcome it?

“It can be a little bit tricky,” says Wilson, “because some people are more sensitive to the disgust response than others, so some people are just more prone, more squeamish.

“So there’s a kind of constitutional element to it as well.

“Also there’s an age shift as well. Children don’t really have that much of a disgust response right at the beginning and we think that’s because a) they don’t really know, and b) they are usually close to a parent and it’s the parent’s job to tell them what’s okay and what’s not.

“As soon as they hit about two and they start moving for themselves that’s when we see a disgust response increasing.

“Women tend to be more sensitive to disgust as well.”

Even so, says Wilson, while constitutional make-up does play a part, it is possible for some people to work through their disgust response and eat things despite them thinking it’s gross.

Looks like it’s crickets for tea then.

To hear more unpacking of statistics about British people, listen to the full episode above, or download it on Apple Podcasts, Acast, or Spotify to listen while on the go.